Now’s the time for social value to take centre stage, says Sarah Maguire.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us what good social value looks like – an estimated 10 million people spent time volunteering, neighbours formed support networks and communities came together to support the most vulnerable. Businesses also played their part by donating PPE and supporting local good causes.
As we edge back towards normality, how do we ensure this momentum isn’t lost?
There’s no denying the need for good social value is greater than ever. As public and private sector organisations continue to face unprecedented challenges, the pressure to procure services that are genuinely valuable is high on the agenda.
As a social enterprise, Fusion21 exists to achieve social value through its procurement frameworks. Every penny that organisations spend through its frameworks – such as its Workplace & Facilities Framework, launched last month, makes a real impact on the lives of communities.
So, how can facilities management professionals achieve social value post-pandemic?
1. Build from the ground up – ensure the contract clauses incorporate social value
Social value works best when it is embedded in frameworks and contracts from the start. Being clear about expectations and agreeing a delivery plan up-front creates the foundations for suppliers to achieve meaningful social value outcomes.
The Public Services (Social Value Act) 2012 requires local authorities and other commissioners of public services to consider how their services might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the relevant area. By including social value in all our frameworks, Fusion21 supports public sector organisations to ensure they comply with the Social Value Act.
2. Engage early with contractors and suppliers
Early engagement with potential contractors and suppliers, ahead of tendering processes, leads to greater ownership of eventual contracts, and greater input around sustainable social value outcomes.
Conversations should be aimed at understanding bidders’ cost models and trying to get some evidence about where costs become sustainable, with examples of how they’ve delivered for other clients.
In order to make sure the 60 prequalified suppliers who made it onto Fusion21’s Workplace and Facilities Framework are the best in their market, Fusion21 engaged with them from the outset, and are confident they will be able to meet the needs (including the social value requirements) of local authorities, NHS trusts, bluelight organisations, education providers and central government.
Worth up to £1.1 billion over a four-year period, the framework incorporates six lots: FM Principal Contractor, FM Managing Agent, Cleaning & Washroom Services, Security Services, Waste Management, and Building Engineering Services (M&E).
3. Communicate regularly
Regular engagement with contractors and suppliers helps public sector organisations understand the pressures businesses are facing. Those who have been in frequent contact with suppliers throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns have been able to work with them to make sure services were maintained.
Some of Fusion21’s members undergo scenario planning, identifying any regulatory, legal or practical issues that may arise during the course of a contract.
4. Level the playing field for SMEs
Procurement competitions can tend to work in the favour of large organisations with teams of bid writers – but social value includes levelling the playing field for smaller, more local businesses.
Fusion21, have stripped some of the unnecessary detail out of their procurement processes to reduce the burden on suppliers. This leads to a greater level of competition, which means there is greater opportunity to deliver good-quality services through contracts.
Another way to help attract more local suppliers is to scrap minimum turnover requirements for certain lots, making them more accessible.
5. Take a flexible approach to social value
Achieving social value does not have to be about providing a certain number of training opportunities or apprenticeships in relation to contract spend – instead, procurement professionals and suppliers can discuss what is most realistic.
Community investment and impact can take many forms, and regulations make it possible to pursue a number of options, putting suppliers’ skills to best use.
6. Make social value part of value for money
The most successful businesses in future will be those who demonstrate social value in everything they do. Social value through procurement is one way in which facilities managers – as well as colleagues across the public sector – can have the maximum positive impact on people’s lives.
Sarah Maguire is social value manager at Fusion21.